For most of the year the weather in the Phoenix, Arizona area is mild, making al fresco dining a popular choice. Most days are not too windy, not too hot, not too cold, not too dusty, and not very buggy! On warm spring days, and even in the summer, dining outdoors might still be an option if the restaurant provides shade and/or misting systems to keep temperatures comfortable.
There are hundreds of restaurants in Greater Phoenix that have an outdoor patio, but my focus here is on the ones that provide more of a garden environment. You won't be sitting outside in a parking lot or on a highway inhaling fumes while you eat. Some are more family-oriented, where the kids are encouraged to run around or roll around in the grass, and you might be able to bring Fido along. Others are a little more chic and expensive. It's your choice!
Gertude's Restaurant at Desert Botanical Garden
Of course, you can eat inside, but why would you? The ultimate place to dine in a garden, Gertrude's is actually located on the grounds, near the entrance, of the famous Desert Botanical Garden in Central Phoenix. It's casual during the daytime, but with sophisticated seasonal menus. This beautiful setting is also appropriate for special occasion dinners.
"Gertrude’s seasonal menus celebrate Arizona’s growers and producers while offering a sophisticated culinary experience in a reserved oasis setting....Whenever possible Gertrude’s purchases locally grown, sustainable, naturally raised and organic products."
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LON's at The Hermosa
LON's is cknowledged as one of the best and most romantic restaurants in Arizona. Cowboy artist Lon Megargee, for whom Lon's is named, built The Hermosa Inn as his home and studio in an exclusive part of town known as Paradise Valley.
The presentation of food at LON's is artful without being ostentatious. Lon's uses locally grown products where possible, including those from their own garden on the property. When they can't obtain an item locally (seafood, for example) the Chef orders it from specific locales that can provide him with fresh, organic product immediately. The menu is described as "Globally Inspired Arizona Fare."
LON's is suitable for a business meeting, a banquet, a wedding rehearsal dinner, a first date or a 50th anniversary. If you enjoy eating outside, Lon's has one of the most appealing patios for al fresco dining that you'll find. No parking lot views, no traffic, no big screen TVs. It's a desert garden. Space heaters are provided during the cooler months.
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House of Tricks
No, it's not a magic shop nor is it a brothel. Robert and Robin Trick have been serving up imaginative and delicious dishes from this residence-turned-restaurant for more than 30 years. The Chef scours local farmers markets and sources local ingredients to determine the creations that will be on the menu the following week. Unused food is recycled to create compost used by local farmers. While House of Tricks is near Arizona State University in Tempe, college kids on a budget plan won't be eating here. You can eat indoors, but why would you if weather permits; this garden is meticulously managed by the family.
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In Old Town Scottsdale you'll find a swanky, cool dining spot for lunch or dinner at AZ88. While there is an attractive bar with creative cocktails, you won't be disappointed with a menu that isn't complicated, but has a great variety of burgers, sandwiches and salads. Don't forget the Strawberry Shortcake for desert. AZ88's outdoor patio overlooks the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall. On days when Native Trails and Sunday A'Fair performances take place, you can see the stage from some parts of the patio and hear the music. When weekend festivals are scheduled, like the Scottsdale Arts Festival, the patio will be packed!
Joe's Farm Grill
This Gilbert, Arizona restaurant would have done just fine even if it had not been featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives! The menu is quite varied, and includes sandwiches, salads and pizza, barbecue plates and specials, like fresh fish. Fresh, local ingredients are used here, many of which come from the adjacent farm at Agritopia, a project located on Joe's family farm. Casual, fast, and tasty is the priority here. Order your food and pick it up at the window, then head out to the yard to enjoy the grass, trees, and then take a walk on the farm path. Seating outside consists of picnic tables, and you'll often find families, mommy groups, and local workers lunching here.
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Farm at South Mountain
In South Phoenix you can enjoy farm-to-table dining, both casual and upscale at this ten-acre farm that offers a mix of gardens, restaurants, and markets. The Morning Glory Cafe is where you'll enjoy casual breakfast and brunch by the organic gardens. Have a picnic at lunchtime at The Farm Kitchen in the pecan grove. For dinner, "Quiessence at The Farm delivers a truly 'farm-to-table' experience using locally sourced produce, meat and wine, to create a refined rustic menu."
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Palette at Phoenix Art Museum
Not far from Downtown Phoenix, and just steps away from a light rail station, you can dine al fresco in a different kind of garden. It's the sculpture garden at Phoenix Art Museum. You don't have to pay museum admission to enjoy this casual restaurant with a seasonal menu "featuring organic vegetables, handcrafted sauces, local meats, and Arizona boutique beers and wines." Museum members get a discount. If you have time to enjoy the museum, it is one of the largest and most highly acclaimed art museums in the Southwest. On most days Palette is only open for lunch, but on First Friday (first friday of the month) you can have dinner here and visit the museum for free.